Category Archives: Prayer

Thoughts about praying, prayers

What should our nation be?

Hello. I am finally emerging from a place of despair. It has been quite a while since I last posted and the worst possible outcome for the election has occurred.  I could not have in my wildest imaginings predicted this outcome.

Our new president is so unfit for office yet a large enough number of people came out and voted for him that we are stuck with him and praying wholeheartedly that he will not destroy the country.  I cannot believe that people in the United States would not take the time to vote, would choose not to vote, or honestly thought Donald Trump would be okay in the highest office.  So far, he has done some crazy things.  He stands for only a few of the people of the country without regard to the rest of us. He even has betrayed those who voted for him.

I was truly in despair for a while but have focussed my energy on forms of resistance, care for others and limiting my “news” input.  There is such potential for damaging our country and taking steps backward in our progress.  It is encouraging that so many are engaging in peaceful forms of resistance.  There is serious dialogue about some of the most important challenges facing our nation.  Conversations about race and gender and injustice are far more frequent and meaningful.  The election of Donald trump may have in fact exposed some very deep injustices that have up until now been ignored.

The big question now should be what do you want your nation to be?  We can be a country which values all of its people or one that continues to enrich a small number at the expense of everyone else.  We can be a country that respects human dignity and sees all of its citizens as human beings wanting the same things for themselves and their children or we can continue to dismiss segments of society.  We can be a nation that supports a clean green world, even as we have to come to grips with the fact that we are responsible for the state we are in or we can continue polluting and denying the problems.  We can honor our constitution and hold that all citizens of the US have rights, including basic needs to support life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness or we can throw it out the window and treat some as expendable to provide a luxurious life for a few.

I would like our country to be a model to the world.  We have great resources. We should be a nation that excels in caring for our people. A place where hatred does not exist. We can call others out on human rights violations when we discontinue that here. We are great innovators, producers, manufacturers and developers.  We can reach great heights without diminishing others.  It would be great to see our economy flourish from bottom to top.  If our “poor” are still able to have a decent life, the wealthy can continue to build business and succeed.  But until there is no poverty in the U.S.  it is sinful for individuals and corporations to amass such wealth as is unusable. True positive Power comes from using wealth to improve the world.  Many in power now only horde wealth, or squander it.  There is so much potential for the United States.  I will continue to pray for a miracle – change of heart so that all people of our nation realize that when all are cared for, all of us benefit.  It would be a miracle if each person saw themselves as part of the human family and not as an entitled one.  I pray!

A PRAYER FOR OUR NATION

Oh God in Your mercy free us from ourselves.
Let us love.  Let hatred leave our thoughts.
Let forgiveness come to us and from us.
Open our hearts wide to embrace rather than shun.
Open our minds to understand that we are all human beings with needs.
Open our hands
To let go of some things that control us and
To grab on to things that make the world a better place
Open our mouths to speak the truth to ignorance and injustice
To give voice to those who currently have no voice
To encourage others to care
To offer words to uplift and support and not diminish or shame
Open our ears and eyes
To see the needs
To hear those who cry out for help
To witness the good in the world and make known the cruelties
To acknowledge and accept people in their desire to live their life freely
O Holy One, give us a sense of self worth that dictates our treatment of others.
Let us live our lives as if we know that each action matters
Let us behave as if every life on earth matters
And Let it explode throughout humanity
AMEN

 

Ferguson and More

It has been a while since my last post and there has been an outpouring of support for the African American community in Ferguson.  Many clergy have been participating in peaceful protests.  Today several members of the Eden Theological Seminary community took part in a protest in the pouring rain.  It resulted in several (I believe it was reported as 49) persons including activist and author Cornell West and my pastor being arrested for civil disobedience.  There was a concurrent Vigil held at the chapel on the seminary campus where we prayed in support of those at the protest and in the neighborhoods affected by shooting tragedies.  A second death of a young black man by multiple gun shots occurred this week.  Some colleagues who live in the area were involved in a prayer service and protest where there was violence.  We have been trying to process these events in our own back yard.

It is difficult to wrap your head around these kinds of events happening in the 21st century but the sad fact is that racism is alive and well. We have seen some definite progress but it isn’t enough.  There are too many persons for whom these events are common occurrences.  They don’t get the press that we’ve seen here but maybe it is time for another civil rights movement.  Maybe people are waking up to the fact that there are people in our country (the great United States of America) that are treated as expendable.  No, we are not talking about a 3rd world country we are talking about the USA. Institutionalized racism. systemic racism,  is so much a part of the fabric of our society that we often fail to even be aware of it.  It is a power inequality that leaves some having control of and benefiting from the wealth of our nation while others struggle to get by and are actively blocked from moving ahead.  While often unconscious, privilege is given to those with white or lighter skin while those with darker or black skin are treated as threats and made to suffer humiliation, disproportionate  scrutiny and simply poor disrespectful treatment, often for no other reason than the color of their skin.

There are many who just don’t get it and it is because they truly have no idea what it is like to live as a person of color in the society.  They don’t take the time to get to know anyone and simply choose to be afraid either because of media portrayal or because they have been told or taught to think this way, or perhaps because of one encounter with an unsavory character.  It isn’t about prejudice.  It is about the power that one group has over another because the society allows it.  That is systemic racism and it is ingrained, unseen unless carefully inspected.  My denomination has taken on the task of becoming a pro-reconciling, anti-racist church.  It is a slow moving process but we have training about white privilege that really helps people understand the real problem.  The problem is power.  In the past when a group of whites felt like it they might go out an lynch a black person or two.  The authorities did nothing about it and very sad scenes of people hanging from trees made other people of color terrified.  (Yes, acts of terrorism).  Now the lynching takes the form of our police officers accosting, harassing or shooting young black men at will, and getting away with it because the system allows it.  It is abuse of power. As a friend of mine said,  “It is a lynching of the spirit.”

I have been thinking about how there was that stop and frisk policy in New York, which has since been outlawed.  The officers claimed it was needed to keep crime down.  But the problem was that they only targeted minorities, It occurred to me that the simple solution to the problem, if it was truly a crime deterrent, was to randomize it  and  stop and frisk everyone.  Statistically more drug abuse and thus criminal possession occurs in white populations.  I’d bet the same is true of gun possession. But we all know how long that would last.  (Privilege)

I must stop now,  This is weighing heavy on my heart and I just wanted to write a bit of it down.  Perhaps I will write more later.  I will end with one of  the prayers I prayed today in the chapel:

O God of all, please enter the hearts of those involved in this terrible tragedy and all those who think like them. Break open the hardened hearts  to allow fear and dislike to flow out and  your love to fill them up.  Anyone who knows your love cannot help but love.  That is what is needed.  Love which leads to respect which leads to relationship and mutual care for one another.  Your love is powerful – help those haters to love.  Help those who feel disrespected and treated as if they have little value to turn there anger to energy to continue the fight and protest the injustice.  Bless those who walk alongside the Ferguson and Shaw communities and give them courage and strength to continue to work toward justice even when things seem impossible.  With you there is always hope.  Amen

Ferguson and Michael Brown

I wanted to write about this before but I had no words.  Even as I sit to write this now there are tears in my eyes.  A young man dead.  A community aching angry and wanting justice but not trusting that it will be forthcoming.  There are two sides (at least) to every story and part of the problem in this case is lack of information.  Racism is alive and well in the US and we cannot deny it.  It is so much a part of who we are we don’t even know when it raises its ugly head.  Why did that officer feel compelled to engage that youth about getting off the street?  According to his police chief he didn’t even know about the store robbery incident.  In an ideal situation, the young man would feel that the police officer only wanted him to be safe but according to the eyewitness, he said wasn’t kind in his speech.  Even I, who live in a very safe community, am distrustful of police.  I would think twice before calling on police for help.  I hate to admit it.  I tried to introduce my children to the local police officers when they were young so that they would know that there were people who would help them if they needed it.  We are law abiding citizens. Yet, our encounters with officers over the years have been mixed. Some kind, many testy, others outright rude.

What stands out in the Ferguson case is that a teenager who  just graduated from high school will not be able to finish his education, will not participate in the community, won’t have a family of his own because his life was taken.  People say he had committed a crime, trying to give a reason for the situation.  Eye witnesses give differing accounts.  But it remains, simple theft, walking in the middle of the street or even trying to show he was not weak by speech or body language are no reason for the use of such deadly force.  The fact that he was shot so many times and that his body was left in the street for hours shows a disregard that is unacceptable in civilized society.  I just feel sadness and some despair that these events happen at all.  This has made the national news and people are reacting to it but events like this happen all the time in our cities, it just doesn’t get much press because the life of an African American is not that important.  Many people in that community, and I agree with them, feel certain that had the young man been white none of this would have happened.

Now, it is well known that the brains of young people are not fully developed until their 20s.  Teenagers are moody, make crazy choices, act out, and are trying to establish themselves as adults without the benefit of thinking beyond the moment.  You would think that police officers would be trained to know that and interact with youth accordingly.  If indeed this young man had robbed a store on a dare it would be cause for punishment but in no possible scenario should this have ended in death.  He was unarmed.  Another shooting made the news,  The case of a mentally disturbed person.  Again, deadly force is not an acceptable way to handle the situation. The training of police officers has to prepare them for encounters such as these.  Are they going to kill anyone who acts out of the ordinary?  I just don’t understand it.  There has to be an alternative to the use of deadly force.  (Getting rid of guns altogether would help but that’s another discussion)

I pray for everyone who is involved.  I pray for justice.  I pray for forgiveness, I pray for courage, patience and strength.  I pray that something positive comes from this and that young Michael Brown didn’t just lose his life for nothing.  I pray for his family in their grief.  I pray for the community of Ferguson, that life can return to normal. So many people have been touched by this tragedy, it is weighing heavy on so many hearts.  I pray for those people whose comments are so clearly racist and unhelpful.  I pray for the police department that they might learn from this and put in place better policies and training for the future.  O God of justice and peace watch over us all in the days to come. AMEN.

 

 

Why Do I Go to Church?

I was driving to church one Sunday morning and this question crossed my mind. Why DO I go to church? I have a good relationship with God. I am a spiritual director and I practice what I preach, I find God in everyday living, I pray, I try to live a life of faith. So what is it about going to church that draws me every week and occasionally mid-week?

I enjoy the people. I find it so comforting to sit with others and share time worshiping God in community. It is good to hear others’ prayers, to hear another reaction to scripture, to share bread and cup and know that we are part of something really big and special, called together by God who is love. The people in my church are diverse in age, theological perspective, political affiliation. Their occupations are across the board. There is variation in socioeconomic status. The people whose lives have touched me have enriched my life so much. I like that I can share my own faith with others. Together we try to be a mission-centered church and care for one another, locally and outside our walls. In doing all this I have grown to know God a little more. I have felt God’s presence and have seen the face of Christ in so many people.

I love to make music. Praying with hymns and anthems is so nurturing to my soul. I share this gift in several ways and that has given me a way to worship and a way to share with others. Helping others have a richer worship experience through music is a great blessing to me. I have made good friends through this ministry.

One might argue that these things are attainable outside a church setting and that is probably true but to have all of them in one place is a real joy. My particular church has been a vital part of our family life for many years and I truly appreciate the time spent in ministry. I have had several leadership roles and have found those to be meaningful ways to consider what God might have in store for us and strive to be God’s people in this world. It has been my privilege to be an organizer and a teacher and a caregiver. I have been supported in my own ministry of listening. I may or may not have the same experience in another church but I tend to believe that people generally are good and church life brings our the best in folks.

So why do I go to church? Because when I wake up on Sunday morning I don’t want to be at home in my own space. I genuinely want to be in a place where people gather to praise God and lift one another up in prayer and support. As I close my eyes I see those people rising to greet one another. It makes me smile.

Rest

Last weekend Opening to the Sacred, the retreat ministry I share with a friend who is also a spiritual director, offered a retreat called Rest For Your Soul. We had a good group and it was a lovely day of exploring scripture, prayer, and reflection.                                                 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon     you and learn from me, for I am gentle  and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.     Matthew 11:28-29

My partner considered the nature of aspen trees.  A stand or grove of aspens grows from a single seed.  It the the root system that spreads and the trees multiply in this way.  We related that to our connectedness as people of God.                                                                       For as the days of a tree , so will be the days of my people.  Isaiah 65:22b

It was a quiet, wisdom-filled and restful day.

Moved by the sharing of ideas and thoughts about the Matthew text, I  wrote a poem

      YOKED yoke

I thought a yoke was limiting
But it depends on the "yokees"
Being yoked to Christ means freedom
   Trusting in loving guidance.
We are led in the Way designed for us
   Specially and lovingly for us
Not sent where we don't want to go
But in the direction we must go 
   to fulfill our destiny
         Our own path but side by side
With the One who knows us 
         better than we know ourselves.
I will take your yoke and I learn from you
         In gratitude and humility
                In Awe
                      In love

Advent

Snowart2aI wrote this in 2009 for an Advent Devotional but it spoke to me today and I’d like to share it with you.

But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” – Jude 17-18

Godlessness. At the time when the Letter of Jude was written the people were being led astray by those “who will follow their own ungodly desires.” In our own times there are so many things that appear to be ungodly. Greed is rampant, there is a loss of concern about others and a self-centered disregard for the effects of one’s actions on others. We are bombarded with images of violence, exploitation of persons’ bodies, and denigrating language — all in the name of entertainment.

In the season of Advent we are particularly vulnerable to being drawn into greed with the commercialization of a most holy time in the church year. How can we remain true to God in a climate such as this?

Perhaps the words of Jude’s letter ring true today as we face a world at odds with our understanding of the kingdom of God. When we regard one another as children of God and care for each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, we catch a glimpse of the world as God intended it to be.

The Jude text offers hope. “Build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love…”

There are always choices to be made. We can allow ourselves to be swept up in the craziness of the season or we can remember that we have been given an amazing gift. If we can remain true to our belief that Jesus is the Christ and he is the lens through which we can focus our lives on God then we can combat the negatives in our lives that try to keep us from staying on the right path.

It is in this season of Advent as we await the coming of Jesus once again, that we, too, can be born anew in him and build ourselves in holy faith.

Godless world? No, we are in a God-filled world. We just have to be open to the many wonders of our God and turn to God in spite of all those things that pull us in other directions.

There is hope in Christ. We are called to that hope. We pray that we will find it as we await the coming of Christ anew. Amen.

Mothers and sons

This week my son and I took a trip. Not the kind of trip I was expecting.  He ended up in the emergency room and needed to have his appendix removed.  There was a time in there that I was actually scared.  People can die from a ruptured appendix. I know because my grandfather did.  With antibiotics and good care he will be leaving the hospital today and I am so relieved.  The hardest part of the whole ordeal for me was watching my son suffer the pain. I thank God for pain medication!  You never want you child to suffer, even as an adult.  It got me to thinking about how your love for you child binds you to them forever.  Yes, he is an adult and can be on his own, but still your first inclination is to take care of him.  He would have been okay had I not been there but I am so glad I could be with his through this. I think he was glad as well.

I had such a special time with my daughter only a couple of weeks ago and now I’ve had a special time with my son under very different circumstances.  I am blessed to be close to both my kids and I am grateful. BUT I would rather have a road trip with my son. <smile>

*O wondrous God, You bless me every day with your love made known the relationships with my children and my spouse.  Thank you for your presence in my life and in theirs.  As I move in my daily life help me to be more and more aware of You.  Amen*

On Being Tired

After a very busy month and  the most recent event, church camp, I am tired. I suppose it is the body’s response to being “on” for so long.  I just needed to stop and rest but I didn’t take much of a break since I had responsibilities at my home church.  Today I walked an outdoor labyrinth and felt renewal.  So many things were still hanging in thoughts from the past month.  As I walked I was able to put them aside so that I could focus on my upcoming retreat.  I felt the burdens lifting from me and a lightness has entered me.  I believe I will sleep better tonight.  I can finish preparations and participate fully in the retreat where I can rest in God along with my sisters in Christ.

Being tired for good reasons is fine but recharging is very important. I talk about centering and renewal of spirit to my directees and I know that these things are vital to health. Today I practiced what I preached and am grateful for the graces given. We all need time with God daily and sometimes in retreat.